The Best One-Year MBA Programs

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

If you’re intent on picking up your MBA in a single year, your options of attending one of the very best schools in the world narrow considerably. In the U.S., for example, only nine of the top business schools ranked by Poets&Quants offer one-year options. In Europe, where the 12-month degree is more common, there are far more opportunities to get a quickie MBA at a prestige school, from INSEAD to IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.

The highest ranked U.S. school with a one-year program is Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which started its program in 1964. The only other top 20 business schools with one-year options are Cornell University’s Johnson School and Emory University’s Goizueta.

Outside of the top 20 in the U.S., there are a number of very good one-year options at such prominent schools as Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, Babson College, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School. The Katz School was the first business school in the U.S. to start a one-year MBA back in 1963—a year before Kellogg. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School has a one-year MBA with an international business consulting project open to candidates with more work experience than is typical for such programs. The average age of a Class of 2012 student in USC’s program is 33 with ten years of work experience on the resume.

All told, there are now at least a dozen business schools with accelerated full-time MBA programs ranked in the top 100 by Poets&Quants (see table above). A few of them allow a student to get the degree in even less than 12 months. You read that correctly: some schools will grant an MBA in as short as nine (Willamette) or ten months (Florida), if you bring the right prerequisites with you and want a hyper intense dash to the finish line.

Another prestige option, of course, is Columbia Business School’s January intake class. It’s not a 12-month option, but it does shortcut the traditional two-year program by several months. Columbia allows students who do not want or need an internship to begin their MBA studies in January and complete their second semester of classes during the summer. Then, the first year class merges in the fall with the second year to complete electives as a single class. About 30% of Columbia’s MBA students enter in January.

While most of the shorter 12-month programs require an undergraduate degree in business or undergraduate work in quant courses, there are some that allow any undergraduates entry. Consider the University of Florida’s one-year option, which begins in May and runs 12 months. If you already have a business degree, you can get through the Florida program in record time—just ten months (it’s so-called Option B program).

The benefits of one-year programs are obvious: Getting the same degree in half the time brings considerable savings in tuition and fees, room and board, and the lost opportunity cost of not having a job for two years. Once you include lost income and interest charges on student debt, the one-year program at Kellogg would save a student roughly $115,614. The total cost of Kellogg’s one-year program is $207,008 versus $322,622 for the two-year program. These estimates do not include scholarship money from Kellogg (where the average scholarship grant is $15,254 per academic year) or corporate sponsorship from a previous employer.

And despite the shortened academic experience, MBA employers tend to award one-year grads the same starting salaries they pay MBAs of two-year programs. In fact, several schools report that their one-year MBAs make slightly more than graduates of their traditional programs, largely the result of differences in work experience. At Kellogg, for example, one-year students are on average five months older with six months more work experience. So the return-on-investment of the one-year degree is much faster.

“People doing the two-year program are looking to have a college experience,” says Shena Simmons, who completed her accelerated MBA at Goizueta in May.  “With the one-year, you go in, you want to learn your stuff, and then get out to restart your career.”

The downside? Career switchers tend to be at a disadvantage because they lose the benefit of a summer internship–which has increasingly become a prerequisite to a job offer. In careers such as consulting and investment banking, companies largely recruit students from internships, so there’s very little hiring of one-year students into those careers, says Randy Allen, associate dean for international and corporate relations at Cornell’s Johnson School.


One-year students also lose out on the intense bonding experience of a two-year program, many of which require cohorts of students to go through the first year core together.  That’s why some of the nation’s most prestigious MBA players, such as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Dartmouth, and Chicago, have not entered the market. Deans at those schools believe that the ideal MBA program is a two-year, all-encompassing experience with an internship, a global immersion trip, and a full menu of electives that allow more time for specialization.

One other important distinction between most of the one-year U.S. programs and the European MBAs is that the U.S. versions generally require a business undergraduate degree and/or a bunch of core prerequisites.

(See following pages for profiles of some of the best one-year programs)


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  • Gillan

    Hello John,
    would you recommend the MIT Sloan Fellow MBA over the traditional full time MBA (either one year or two year) for someone aged 36 sponsored by his company?

  • JohnAByrne

    Absolutely. The MIT Sloan Fellows program is among the very best and compares very favorably with an Executive MBA of the highest caliber. The quality of the candidates who enter this program and the quality and depth of the alumni network is sensational. I would recommend it without hesitation.

  • Gillan

    many thanks john for the invaluable advise. I really appreciate it.

  • CorrectingDummies

    Babson pitiful? Surely you jest.
    Emory pitiful? You need to do your homework, honey.

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